India's first lunar mission launched

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

India's first unmanned lunar mission was launched off of the shore of Andhra Pradesh this morning. India now joins the United States, Russia, Japan, China and the European Space Agency as the only powers that have demonstrated their ability to launch satellites to the moon.

The Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 6:22 am (00:52 UTC) in Sriharikota, which is about 88 km (55 mi) north of the southern Indian city of Chennai. The cost of this mission is estimated at 3.4 billion rupees (US$78 million). While the launch has been criticized for being a waste of Indian government funds, when the money can go towards more humanitarian causes, India is hopeful that its venture will put it into competition for commercial satellite launch services. The satellite features five components built by India's technology sector, and six components from foreign nations.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-11 is the rocket which will carry the Chandryaan-1 satellite probe. The probe is being sent on a two-year orbital mission around the moon for achieving substantial goals for a detailed map of the mineral resources, chemical and topographical characteristics of the moon's surface. Some of the mission will include examining the surface for sources of water, and taking comparison photos of the light side and dark sides of the surface.

Both China and Japan already have satellites of their own orbiting the moon, and just last month China became the third country in the world to carry out its own independent space walks. India's previous space endeavors have mainly been related to launching weather and communications satellites.